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  • Renee Kashuba

Let's keep it clean!

Get ready to stay at home EVEN MORE this week

The warnings are everywhere, and ominous: this will be the worst week yet. This is the week to avoid going out altogether, even to the grocery store or pharmacy. This is tough, and it's almost like learning not to touch your face. Once you know you have to wait to go to the pharmacy, you immediately think, "but isn't my acetaminophen expired, and isn't that what they recommend for these fevers????" OK, it may in fact be expired (I'm pretty sure mine is, but I'm just choosing not to look at this moment). If the worst happens, and we need acetaminophen, I'll deal with it then. For now, let's all try to stay put, and make it through the next week. We'll see where we are then. If you DO go out (please don't), cover up for safety The CDC is now recommending we all wear cloth masks whenever we go to places where social distancing is difficult (like the stores we're all going to avoid this week -- are you seeing a pattern in my thinking here? -- please stay home). So, get out your sewing kit, and whip up a few masks! (Shout out to Jackie, who made the awesome mask pictured above, when she saw I was using a bandana -- it's even reversible for fashion!) Here are a few tips I've gleaned from recent press on the matter:

  • The best fabrics are tight-weave cotton. I read a recommendation for 600-thread count pillow cases. Disclaimer: I don't have 600-count sheets, and I'm not sure I'd sacrifice those soft puppies for a face mask. But if you do, go right ahead! Turns out, bandanas are not really recommended anymore, as they're not tight enough weave. Got some fabric lying around? Test the tightness of the weave by holding it up to a bright light. If you can see the light well, or if you can see the threads of the weave, it's not tight enough.

  • Layering is key. Make sure you double up (or more, I suppose, though I've only seen doubling recommended -- test it out to make sure you're still comfortable breathing in it). Another recommendation I've seen is layering with a coffee filter. I'm not sure how this would work with washing, so maybe just place the filter inside when you tie it on, so you can change it with each use.

  • Wash after each use! Just like undies. This is where the coffee filter issue comes in. If you actually sew it into the mask, I'm assuming it would degrade in the wash. Give it a try, and let me know!

  • Keep it on the whole time you're at risk of exposure and remove it carefully! This is really important. If you pull the face mask down to take a sip of water or smile at a child (my young niece was the recipient of such a smile in a store), you negate the entire act. Any time you touch something, you could be getting virus on your hands and spreading it to other surfaces, in this case your face. Be very careful removing the mask, and wash or sanitize your hands immediately. When I shop (which, again, I'm avoiding this week), I carefully remove the mask folding it in on itself, remove my gloves pulling them over on themselves, and sanitize my hands and all the van door handles I've touched. Then I'm ready to drive.

Keep it clean in the kitchen

Of course, I follow Westchester Department of Health standards in the kitchen. We're required to wipe down all surfaces after each use, and to sanitize all dishes and utensils, with an approved solution. I use a chlorine-based solution, which is essentially just bleach in water:

  • 1 tablespoon bleach (about a capful, if you're estimating)

  • 1 gallon of water

This is safe on stainless steel, plastic, or glass, which includes everything at the store, and I also use bleach and water on my formica countertop at home. Clorox's online guide states this is safe on granite countertops as well, but, as always, test a small area first to make sure you don't stain or damage your beautiful countertop. I would not recommend using this solution on wood, paint, and other porous surfaces throughout the house.

I've also been using a fruit and vegetable wash at the kitchen these days. I don't think this is necessary, but it may make you feel better. Here's the recipe (I mix a large batch, and keep it in the refrigerator):

  • 1 cup white vinegar

  • 3 cups water

  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice (I substitute 1 teaspoon citric acid, since the acidity is more consistent)

Wash veggies/fruit with water, spray on wash (I use a squirt bottle instead), let sit for a couple minutes, then rinse thoroughly with water. NOTE: This is not concentrated enough to clean surfaces!

This week's recipe

Easy oat cakes

In case you're out of bread (still or again!), here's another quick and easy recipe for starch. These can be eaten warm or cold, and they can be used to make a sandwich.

  • 1 cup oats

  • 1 cup flour (any)

  • 1 Tb potato flour (omit if you don't have it, and not needed if you're using a flour with gluten like regular white or whole wheat flour)

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 1 Tb baking powder or 1 tsp baking soda

  • Dried cranberries, raisins, and/or nuts (optional)

  • 1 1/2 c milk (any) or water

  • 1-2 eggs (can omit and use more liquid)

  • Butter or oil for pan

Mix dry, add wet and mix in thoroughly. Let stand a few minutes to let the oats absorb liquid. Warm butter or oil in pan on medium heat. Fry batter in batches, a few minutes to a side (wait to flip until you see bubbles at the edges). Add more oil or butter to the pan before each new batch. Alternatively, drop onto sheet pan lined with parchment paper and bake at 375 for about 10 minutes or until starting to brown for an oil-free option.



As some of you have already figured out, I'm always happy to share ideas and recipes. You can reach me by text, email, phone, responding to this email, clicking the button below -- so many ways. If you don't know what to make with what you have in house, or you've got some veggies about to go bad, and you don't know what to do with them, reach out! I can help.

Beautiful cloth face mask made for the Chef by a client
High fashion for quarantine, beautiful cloth face mask made for Chef by a friend.

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